Leopards, Vikings in big battle tonight

A key matchup with playoff implications takes place tonight at Leopard Stadium in Liberty.

The Liberty Leopards, who are ranked fifth in Division V, Region 17, will take on the LaBrae Vikings, who currently sit third in that same region.

Liberty (3-2) matched last year’s win total and the Leopards are gaining more confidence with every win.

“We’ve been having good weeks of practice lately,” Leopards coach Chet Allen said. “As long as we don’t get complacent, I think we have a chance to keep getting better.”

The Leopards had a big Week 2 win against Lakeview and followed that up with victories against Brookfield (27-21 in overtime) and Campbell (20-14). Much like this week’s opponent, the Leopards utilize a running quarterback and lots of athletes on the perimeter and in the backfield.

For Allen, the Vikings are like a reflection of his own football team, which should make tonight’s crucial matchup an interesting one.

“It’s like always looking at a chessboard and seeing the same pieces,” Allen said, “but the parts and pieces are a bit different.”

Offensively, it has mainly been Dra Rushton’s show, as he leads the team with 295 rushing yards and has more touchdowns (10) than the rest of the team combined (five).

“After watching them (Liberty) on film, they actually do quite a few things different from us,” Vikings coach John Armeni said. “It’s tough trying to prepare for him (Rushton), but our guys are battled tested. Every week provides a new challenge.”

The Vikings (3-2) have bounced back nicely from a 1-2 start, as they’ve beaten Campbell (28-19) and Champion (43-6) over the past two weeks. Quarterback Carlton Brown has shown some of the most improvement in recent games, and he now has 557 passing yards and a 104.2 quarterback rating.

LaBrae has produced two running backs with at least 300 yards this season, with Colton Stoneman (322) and Tariq Drake (302). Drake currently leads the team with 118 all-purpose yards per game and five scores.

“We need to establish a run game and throw it when we can,” Allen said. “We need to try to keep them (LaBrae) bottled up because they have weapons on the outside and they know how to utilize them.”